In his State of the Union Address on January 27, 2010, President Obama responded much in the same way as the Captain of the Titanic when approaching an iceberg in the North Atlantic during the maiden voyage of his Great Liner. Instead of sharply changing course while fully reversing his administration’s powerful engines, the President, like the ship’s fated captain, has held on to his chosen course, while slightly slowing his vessel’s speed; half-hearted measures that inevitably must fail to avert looming disaster.
The first rule of public choice is to ignore the words of all politicians, while closely tracking their observable actions, the only true barometer of their motives. So one should always approach a State of the Union address with a sound measure of skepticism. In recent years few of the promises promulgated at those emotive assemblies have ever passed into law. Most of the promises are received by the immediate audience in the manner in which they are delivered; as rhetoric targeted on a rationally ignorant, emotionally vulnerable electorate.
Clearly signaled changes in the direction of policy, however, are a different matter. They are wake up calls to the political class. Sadly. there was no such wake up call in President Obama’s address. His rhetoric was surprisingly flat, his prose surprisingly poor; but much more significant was a clear signal to the country that his policy course is set in stone, and will not be changed. If his ship indeed is headed for the iceberg, then he is confident that the iceberg will be destroyed, and that he will sail unencumbered into pacific waters. His ship after all is unsinkable! Has that not been the media message throughout the past 12 months? As with the Captain of the Titanic, so with President Obama, the ship was, and the presidency will be destroyed.
So, the President will pursue an ill-fated health care reform policy, he will pursue an ill-judged energy reform policy, he will pursue an unpopular pro-union policy, while paying lip-service to a budget freeze- -actually a freeze on only 17 per cent of the budget – over the next three years. Even that dose of medicine comes without a physician’s instructions. Congress, once again, will have to do the heavy lifting on all his policies, will have to carry the short-term electoral consequences, while the President enjoys date-trips to New York, tours the world, and vacations in the Hawaian sunshine.
Well, as Senator Obama should have learned – indeed did learn before his ambitions soared – that is not at all the kind of cloth from which politicians are cut. Politicians assiduously protect their own backs; and they all know – Democrat and Republican alike – that President Obama’s policies are deeply unpopular; that they do not meet the political market test.
So 2010 will be lost in an unedifying spectacle of aborted bills and divisive political battles, while the already restless American electorate becomes increasingly dismissive of its not-so- new President. The end-game will be a repeat of 1994; and, in January 2011, no doubt, a State of the Union address that should have been made in 2010.
By 2011, it will be too late for President Obama. With a little bit of luck, the first green shoots will break through, harbingers of a new laissez-faire oriented Morning in America to follow upon the 2012 Presidential elections.